Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Temptation of Christ

Let's take a fresh look today at the temptation of Christ and the lessons we may learn from it. To begin, here is the passage contained in just eleven verses, but which was an amazing feat that our Lord accomplished:

"Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry."

"And the tempter came and said to Him, 'If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.' But He answered and said, 'It is written, "MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD."

"Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, 'If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, "HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU"; and "ON their HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE." Jesus said to him, 'On the other hand, it is written, "YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST."'

"Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, 'All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.' Then Jesus said to him, 'Go, Satan! For it is written, "YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY."' Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him." (Mat 4:1-11)

Now let's look at the lessons learned from how the devil approached the temptation of Christ, and how the Lord responded to it. Keep in mind that the Lord had been fasting for forty days, which is something most people have never done. So until we have done that ourselves, we cannot fully appreciate what He went through. He could not rely on physical strength to overcome these temptations. He was operating at a handicap essentially, due to his hunger and thirst, and the fact that he was in a dry, arid place where there were no people. He was facing temptations that were very real, very strong, and powerful, and He completely overcame them. Here is how:

The Word of God
First, we can see that Jesus relied on the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, in order to battle the devil in each temptation. His response was always, "It is written." Each time the devil tempted Him, he countered the devil with what is written in the Scriptures, and He didn't just think about these in His mind, but He spoke them out loud to the devil. This is key for us to remember, so that when we find ourselves being tempted, we should do the same.

"For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." (Heb 4:12-13, NIV).

The Lord did not try to reason with the devil or have a discussion with him about the temptations. He did not weigh the pros and cons of each thing the devil proposed. He was not verbose either. He simply responded with a terse, very concise response citing directly from Scripture by saying "It is written," and then quoting the passage that the Father brought to His mind by the Spirit.

In order to do this, you need to be immersed in the Word of God, living on it daily as your bread. For He said, "Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God." Jesus had been feasting on the Word of God during His time of fasting in the wilderness, as He once told the disciples, "I have food to eat that you do not know about." (Joh 4:32b).

We need to be meditating on the Word and committing it to heart. Scripture memorization is a key aspect of your being prepared for temptation. As the psalmist said, "How can a young man keep his way pure, by living according to your word." (Ps 119:9, NIV78). And "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." (Ps 119:11, NIV).

The three verses of Scripture Jesus cited to the devil were all in the same book of the Bible. He cited the book of Deuteronomy, 6:13, 6:16, and 8:3. Isn't it amazing that all His responses came from these two chapters of the same book? Of all the books in the Bible, He quoted from the Law, which proves that it is still valid to quote from the Law when necessary. After all, Jesus did that, as we read throughout the gospels, and so did the apostles all throughout the New Testament. "Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.” (1 John 2:6).

The fact that Jesus quoted all three verses from one small portion of Scripture shows just how densely packed the Word is with weapons that we can use for our defense against temptation. Even if you only have a limited amount of the Word in you, it is still a powerful weapon against the enemy. How much more if you consume large quantities of the Word daily and commit portions of it to heart!

Each time the Lord countered with the Word, it shut the devil up. He could not resist the powerful sword of the Spirit. For more on this, see The Bible is the Word of God and Scripture Alone.

Now that we've looked at how the Lord responded, let's look at the approach the devil used each time.

Casting Doubt
He sought to cast a shadow of doubt over the divinity of Christ by making the skeptical remark, "If you are the Son of God..." and then trying to tempt Jesus to prove it to the devil.

The devil knows that whatever is not of faith is sin, and that he who doubts is unstable in all his ways, which is why he tempts people to doubt. As James said, "He who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord. He is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does." (James 1:6b-8, NIV78).

Whenever the devil tries to cast doubt into our minds, we need to remember -- and even state aloud -- what is written in the Word of God and trust in Him, Who cannot lie.

I'd like to mention two more things that we need to beware of in connection with this. First of all, the devil tries to tempt people to question the deity of Christ. And if he can't succeed in doing that, he also tries to get believers to question their identity in Christ. Just as he tempted Christ to prove his identity as the Son of God, he also tries to cast doubt in the minds of believers that they are truly children of God, or truly saved. Now that you know this, you will be better prepared to defend against such temptations.

For more on this, please see my article Your Identity in Christ.

Using Scripture
The devil uses Scripture, too. However, he does so by twisting it to make it say something it does not mean. He uses Scripture to deceive people and create confusion, in order to make it seem like God said something He did not say. He uses the Bible to convince people that what is sin is actually not sin. The devil knows the Bible better than most Christians do.

In the wilderness, he quoted from Psalm 91, regarding the promise of angelic protection, and sought to tempt Christ to put God to the test by throwing Himself from the pinnacle of the temple. Of course, it would be presumptuous to do something intentionally to hurt oneself in order to see if God would protect you from harm, and that is just what the devil tried to get Jesus to do. He is always perverting the right ways of God. Even to this day he does the same thing with his knowledge of Scripture, twisting it, and using it for evil to trick people into sinning and doing his will. This is why it is important for us to not only know what the Bible says, but to understand what it means and believe it.

For more on this, please see my articles, The Nature of False Prophets and Read the Bible for All It's Worth.

Focusing on Self
The devil tried to get Jesus to focus on Himself, and he does the same to us, too. Let's look at how he did that. First, each time he said, "If you are the Son of God," he was seeking to get Jesus to focus on Himself. He did this three times to Christ. In the first instance, he was appealing to the Lord's hunger after forty days of fasting, tempting Him to turn stones into bread for Himself to eat. And in the second instance he tried to get the Lord to focus on proving His deity by jumping off the top of the temple and killing Himself. In the third temptation, he said, "All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me." Again the focus was on self.

Sometimes the devil uses this focus on self to tempt you to do something for yourself that seems pleasurable, like eating food when you are fasting, and other times he tries to tempt people to do something that would be harmful to themselves, like committing suicide. But this focus on self is one of his tactics. Beware of his selfish temptations.

For more on this, please see The Self-Help Gospel, and Is the the Self-Help and Actualization Movement a Sham?

Devil Worship
The devil tempted the Lord to worship him, as I have already mentioned. Just as he wants to tempt people to focus on themselves and be selfish, he cannot help being selfish himself. He wants the focus to be on him. This is something he has done for thousands of years, and he is still doing it today. He always promises something in exchange. With Christ, he promised to give him all the kingdoms of the world. With some people he promises fertility, or sexual satisfaction. Or he promises rain so their crops will grow. Or with others he is promising some other kind of success, like fame, fortune, or power. Through many different forms of idolatry, the devil is stealing worship from God and leading souls down to hell. For more on this, please see Modern Day Idols.

It's no wonder why in these last days we see a rise in devil worship and satanism. His days are numbered and he is furious. He is pulling out all the stops and doing all he can to get the world to worship him. In the book of Revelation, we know that in the very last days during the Great Tribulation, the multitudes will worship the devil and worship man, particularly the antichrist or beast. "They worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, 'Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?' " (Rev 13:4)

Focus on the World
The devil tried to get the Lord to focus on the world. He showed Him all the kingdoms of the world from atop a high mountain and promised to give it all to the Lord, even though the Lord created it all. The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it, the world and all who dwell therein (Ps 24:1). He is already the God of all the kingdoms of the earth. He didn't need to have the devil give Him those kingdoms. He is the King of kings, and Lord of lords.

But what the devil tries to do is to get you to put your focus on the world and the things that are seen. "While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." (2Co 4:18). For the apostle John said, "Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever." (1Jn 2:15-17)

Now I want to show you how Jesus handled all of these temptations, in addition to what I have already cited above.

Focus on God
In every instance in which He was tempted by the devil, Jesus focused on God. In the first temptation, He said, "Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God." Do you see how He put the focus back on God? He did the same again in the second temptation, in which He said, "You shall not put the Lord your God to the test." And in the third temptation, He said, "You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only." The emphasis was clearly on the Father here.

For Jesus, it was not about self, it was about the Father. The focus was always what pleases the Father. This is the true definition of success. Success is not accumulating wealth and material goods. Success is pleasing my Father.

For more on this, please see Pleasing the LordFrom Self-Confidence to Confidence in the LordSuccess in God's Eyes, and Walking in the Perfect Will of God.

Prayer and Fasting
While this may not be obvious to most people, the fact that Jesus was praying and fasting was also a key in His overcoming temptation. This aspect is the essential background or context for the whole temptation of Christ in the wilderness, but it can easily be overlooked. Let's not forget that the Lord taught His disciples that certain types of demons come out only by prayer and fasting (Mk 9:29, KJV). If you find yourself tempted in a certain area, then praying and fasting may be just what you need. In fact, you may need to fast from the very thing you are being tempted to indulge in, not only from food and drink, but also from such things as TV, Facebook, social life, etc. Otherwise, if you are fasting but not praying, it is basically just a form of dieting.

It's easy to see how the Lord's fasting made it more difficult for Him to handle the temptations, and indeed it did so from a natural perspective. But from a spiritual perspective, which is more important when dealing with spiritual battles, His prayer and fasting was a key to His effectiveness in overcoming the temptations. For He taught His disciples, "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Mt 26:41, NIV)

Commanding the Devil to Depart
The final aspect of the Lord's response I want to mention is that He commanded the devil to depart from Him, and so can we. He said, "Away from me, satan!" The Scripture says, "Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him." Let's not forget this. Jesus told us that the same things He did, we shall do also. We, too, should command the demons to depart from us, in the name of Jesus, and they will flee.

Putting it All Together
While the devil tries to tempt us, we can learn from the Lord's example how to resist the devil. Resist the devil and he will flee, just as he did from Christ. The devil uses the strategy of casting doubt, using Scripture, getting people to focus on self, or to focus on the world, and even to focus on him.

However, the Lord was such a perfect example for us. He used the Word of God in all His retorts to resist the devil, and it worked flawlessly every time. He quoted out loud to the devil that which is written in Scripture. He focused on God and what would please the Father. He refused to focus on Himself and His needs. His primary need was to please God. He fasted and prayed.  And He boldly confronted the devil, commanding him to leave.

Let's take these things to heart and apply them in our own lives now by the help of the Holy Spirit. Ask the Holy Spirit to do that, and He will give you victory over the devil's temptations.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, except where noted. Other Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible NIV. Image used according to Fair Use Act for commentary and educational purposes only. No copyright infringement intended.

Author's note: I also recommend reading my articles, Your Identity in ChristFastingSins That Will Keep You From HeavenThe Forgotten Sin of Worldliness, The Kingdom of Darkness, Demonology 101Pleasing the Lord, Success in God's EyesFor the Glory of God AlonePiercing the Darkness,  Demons Disguised as Humans, Jesus Christ Descended into Hell, The Evil Nephilim GiantsRock, Rap, and Reggae Music -- Five Divine RevelationsAlcohol and Cigarettes -- Ten Divine Revelations, Angelica Zambrano Hell and Heaven, and Godly Attire & Adornment -- Seven Divine Revelations,  as well as the articles available through the Home page of this blog.  You may access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org

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